For 17 years the Winter MTB Series has been a mainstay on the Rotorua mountain biking scene.

It is the biggest cross-country series in New Zealand, by participation numbers, and for organisers, Nduro Events, the key to success has been an effort to continuously improve and adapt.

That is why, from next year, they are introducing the Rotorua Winter Forest Festival in its place, a celebration of the forest featuring running and mountain biking events.

Nduro Events director Tim Farmer reflected on how far the Winter MTB Series had come since he first rode it himself in 2008.

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"I was only doing the short course because I was new to riding. Both [co director Belinda Farmer] and I were doing it and we rode from 2008 to 2013 before taking over Nduro Events.

Logan Horsford gets some air during last year's Winter MTB Series. Photo/Supplied
Logan Horsford gets some air during last year's Winter MTB Series. Photo/Supplied

"[The Winter MTB Series] just boomed - we went from doing 130 riders per event to 500-600 riders per event from all over the country. You sort of go on a journey with these people - a lot of the elite guys in the long course race started off doing the short course as children. It's cool to see them come through, the next generation of riders," Farmer said.

While it was hard to pinpoint a single change which caused the increase in participation, he said he and wife Belinda tried to approach every event from a rider's point of view.

"I was new to mountain biking, I wasn't an expert, and we thought what does a new person want. Putting on races that we would want to enter was our whole vision, and still is. We've tried to enhance the whole vibe and atmosphere - that community feel.

"You're enabling people to get out of that winter funk when you go to work and the sun's only just coming up and it's dark when you go home. You can get into that rut. The winter series gives you a mechanism to train and have something to aim for. It's just enabling people to get out there. That's why we're still having a winter event next year, just in a different format."

Riders race along one of the forest's many trails during the 2017 Winter MTB Series. Photo/Supplied
Riders race along one of the forest's many trails during the 2017 Winter MTB Series. Photo/Supplied

The trails themselves look a lot different compared with when the first event was held in 2002.

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"There's a lot more trails and a lot more care that goes into looking after them. There's a sense of ownership by the Rotorua Trails Trust to keep those trails looking good and running good. It's a tourism resource for Rotorua and the events are part of that too. The hotels are booked out, the restaurants and eateries are full - there's a flow-on effect for the wider Rotorua community."

He also paid tribute to the organisers and volunteers who have been involved with the event along the way.

"Every person who has had involvement in the event has done their bit to get it where it is.

"As most events do, it started off with a core group of volunteers which eventually grows with the event. I think volunteers in any group are the most valuable asset available to events. We have two volunteers that travel from Porirua every year and they refuse to be paid, they've been doing it since we took over and all they ask for is a donation to Hospice in their area."

While this Sunday marks the beginning of the end for the Winter MTB Series as we know it, there are thousands of riders all over New Zealand for whom the 17 years of memories will last a lifetime.